Travelex’ Chief Marketer Thinks It’s Time For A Change

A high rate of customer engagement is achievable even in a “low-interest” business category, says Dominic Grounsell, global marketing director of foreign exchange company Travelex.

Travelex’ Chief Marketer Thinks It's Time For A Change

The forty-year-old Travelex Group is a foreign exchange company, the main businesses of which are international payments, bureaux de change, and issuing prepaid credit cards for use by travellers. The company is currently undergoing a rapid digital transformation, which challenges any preconceptions about being in a “low-interest” category. The charge is being led by Dominic Grounsell, global marketing director, who cut his teeth at Unilever before moving on to BT, Capital One, and MoreTh>n, and was one of the first U.K. marketers to book an ad on Facebook.

Now he is embracing social servicing. In his position at Travelex, Grounsell runs all aspects of marketing across B2B and B2C across 29 markets, including all parts of the marketing mix, from online and offline to PR. He is also responsible for the commercial performance of the online businesses globally.

When caught up with him, we began by asking him to outline the key marketing challenges for Travelex.

Grounsell: I’ve worked across a range of different categories and the kinds of challenges we face at Travelex are consistent with those I’ve seen elsewhere, for example, trying to cope with macroeconomic forces and changing consumer behaviour in relation to how they buy what they buy. One of the main challenges we face is trying to engage users in what is essentially looked at as a “low-interest category”. While money is essential, it is not necessarily front of mind for most people. The opportunity we have at Travelex, given that we are in the technology space, money space, and travel space, is to talk to people about things that are actually quite interesting and important to them. In short, we need to change the conversation. How do you do that?

Grounsell: In our consumer/retail business, it is very much about focusing on the customer and digital. While we are often seen as a financial services business, we are very much a retailer at heart, and we’re looking to enhance that by also becoming a technology business. As a company, we are currently undergoing a very fast-paced digital transformation. Over the last year or so, we have recruited a huge number of people to help us rapidly advance our capabilities in relation to technology and software development, and we now have built a high-performing team of engineers who are creating great products.

Last year we launched a pilot for our first product, called Supercard, which is a product that allows people to avoid bank card roaming charges when buying things abroad. It works by allowing people to link their existing debit and credit cards to our Supercard product via a mobile app. Engagement with that proposition has been huge and our pilot was oversubscribed by five or six times on the first day of launch. It goes to show that the right product and the right proposition communicated in the right way can drive a massive amount of customer engagement, even in a category which historically has seen itself as low interest. When you were tasked with building Travelex’ digital marketing strategy and restructuring the marketing team, what changes did you make?

Grounsell: Last year we made the move to integrate my new digital marketing team with the existing retail and B2B marketing team. The main driver for this structural change was our desire to create a single global marketing function, focused behind a singular strategy and working in an integrated way. This is critical to our ability to deliver coherent and consistent marketing to our customers across channels and geographies. Did the integration present any specific challenges?

Grounsell: We are still working on how we ensure that we have the right mix of skills. We have some people who are very strong in retail marketing and some who are very strong in digital marketing, but we are working on developing skills bases so that we have more holistic skillsets across our resource pool. That can be a challenge, because people tend to grow up in specific schools of marketing these days and, therefore, become channel specialists. Trying to create the space for people to broaden their skillsets and experience base is tough, given that everyone is working at capacity to deliver our ambitious agenda. How is the global marketing team now set up?

Grounsell: My team is split into seven sub-teams. I have four regional teams that sit in various geographies around the world—U.K, Americas, APAC (including China), and Europe and the Middle East. They are responsible for all the marketing and the performance of the online business in those regions. The other parts of my team are central shared services: I have a performance marketing team centred around digital marketing channels; I have a brand and customer marketing team focused on areas such as campaigns, product marketing, PR, and social media; and I have a central team that co-ordinates our B2B marketing globally. Where is Travelex as a business on the digital journey?

Grounsell: We have been on our transformation journey for nearly two years now, and because we are a private equity-backed business, we have been able to move faster than I have personally ever seen a business move. We have made decisive moves in terms of investment and hiring, which means we now have a rich and diverse pool of digital/tech talent. We are taking big steps forward in terms of the development of our products and technology too, which is increasingly placing us at the forefront of fintech innovation.

We are also beginning to make progress in how we utilise data. From a marketing perspective, we have been hiring analysts and bringing real rigour and structure into our digital channel planning, execution, and measurement. This is allowing us to trade in increasingly more sophisticated ways and improve performance of those businesses. Beyond that, we have a team of data scientists now who work across the whole business and are doing things with data that we never imagined were possible.

Building a data science capability is essential for an organisation like Travelex. We have to understand the granular dynamics of pricing and passenger flows at airports, and we have to get under the skin of the extremely nuanced profitability drivers in the foreign exchange category. The volume and complexity of data have increased dramatically in line with the rise of digital and tech, so it is vital that we have data specialists to make sense of that, so we can understand the performance of the business. Can you share some examples of how you have used data to inform your marketing activity?

Grounsell: Last year we worked hard to build the right foundations around forecasting, measurement, and trading, because, in digital marketing, you have to have the right structures in place to understand what is happening, when, and how, so you can drive performance in the right ways. Both our marketing plan and our commercial plan for digital are built using a granular “bottom-up” approach across every market, so we understand and predict cause and effect, and deliver the right ROI. We are now looking to build on those foundations going forward, such that we can become increasingly more sophisticated in the way we drive volume and, in turn, the financial results for the business. I understand you are a big believer in social media?

Grounsell: When I was at Capital One, I was one of the first people to book an ad on Facebook in the U.K, and that business was one of the first brands to invest heavily in the platform from its very earliest days in our market. Since then, the value that social can bring to the marketing mix has been proven by lots of brands, and social is on everyone’s marketing agenda.

Over time, the focus for social has evolved, however, and one thing that is exciting me right now is the growth of the social servicing space. This is driving some fantastic results for us, not just in terms of sentiment improvements and the fact that we are now achieving sub-one-hour response rates, but also in terms of our ability to solve problems in a very efficient manner for the customer. For our @Supercard UK Twitter handle we have an 83% response rate with an average response time of 40 minutes, and 40% positive sentiment (with only 2% negative sentiment). Our social servicing activity is being driven via a partnership of marketing and customer services here at Travelex, and we are seeing great feedback from our customers.

We are also using social to build beta testing groups for product development purposes, which is again yielding some great insights and helping us to create better products. We have communities of people who are advising us and giving us customer feedback, and the levels of engagement are fantastic. We do that primarily through Facebook at the moment, but there is lots of room for expansion. Can you share an example of how such feedback has been applied?

Grounsell: Our Supercard beta group is a good example. We have seen a lot of engagement around this product, with people sharing stories of how they have used it and how much they are saving. That engagement has created the context we need to be able to ask a group of 16 of those customers to sit on that beta group for us. My social media team, in conjunction with our product development guys, have a regular dialogue with that group about products, services, and app features. It is a source of valuable ideas. What do you see as the biggest opportunities and challenges going forward?

Grounsell: It is about really driving our new commercial strategy and brand strategy. It will position us with a very specific point of view and give rise to even better-quality services for our customers across both B2B or B2C. It is an organisational reorientation that is rolling out as we speak, and which for me is more exciting than just doing yet another new ad campaign. We are also thinking about how we continue to innovate in the products and services space to find more ways to solve customer problems and give them more reason to shop with Travelex or partner with us in the B2B space.

The other big area is data. How do we continue to build our databases and our capability to analyse, interpret, and operationalise insights; how do we make our business more data analytically driven? A big component of that is marketing, but the more interesting piece is the overall organisational reorientation towards data, which I think will unlock huge amounts of growth.